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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 2, 1996
                          AT ARRIVAL CEREMONY

The South Lawn

10:15 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT CLINTON: President Scalfaro, Mariana Scalfaro, members of the Italian delegation, distinguished guests: On behalf of the American people, I am delighted to welcome President Scalfaro to the United States. It is an honor to return the gracious hospitality the people of Italy showed to Hillary and me in Rome and Naples in 1994.

America and Italy are joined by friendship, family and values. Our founding fathers drew inspiration from the thinkers of ancient Rome to build a new republic based on laws and rooted in liberty and justice.

Thomas Jefferson was moved by the ideas of his friend, Filippo Mazzei, to write the immortal phrase, "All men are created equal." Constantino Brumidi, an artist from Rome, labored for 25 years on the frescoes that adorned our Nation's Capital. Generations of Italian Americans have contributed beyond measure to America's greatness, enriching our nation's character with their spirit and the strength of their heritage.

America and Italy stood together for half a century to safeguard Europe's freedom and advance our common ideals. Now, with the end of the Cold War, the United States looks to Italy as a valued partner more than ever. From keeping the peace in troubled regions to building and undivided Europe.

Earlier this year, I visited Aviano Air Base where the United States and Italy work together to contain the conflict in Bosnia and provide a lifeline to the Bosnian people. Now we are joined in a common support of the peace that is taking hold in Bosnia. I know I speak for all Americans when I thank the people of Italy, its leaders, its troops and its citizens for the enormous effort they have made to bring peace to the people of Bosnia.

I also thank Italy for its support for our common efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East and for its role in the recent conference at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

Italy and the United States stand together as well in the fight against the forces of hatred and violence, the organized criminals, the drug traffickers, the terrorists who have brought pain and destruction to Italians and Americans alike.

Mr. President, the bonds between our people stretch across the centuries. They extend from the hearts of our neighborhoods to the distant reaches of the heavens where America and Italy now are cooperating on the international space station. As I said in Rome, and I say again, we, Italians and Americans, are now and forever alleati, amici, una famiglia -- allies, friends, a family. Welcome to the White House. Welcome to America. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT SCALFARO: Greetings, Mr. President and Mrs. Clinton. And through you I bring my greetings to the American people and to the United States, a country that has sacrificed thousands of its young men and women on the altar of liberty for Italy and other countries in the world.

Mr. President, I want to say how sincerely I have really wished to be at the White House here on this day. I really, truly wished very much to be here, but my desire was not like some other heads of state, even in Europe, that come here almost to get a promotion, because I come here and I think, with the utmost sincerity, and I think this other attitude would be a lack of respect toward your country and my country.

This friendship between our countries has lasted, you said, through the centuries, and I underscore it's been uninterrupted, this friendship that ties our two countries. And I want to remember a moment that was very significant in my youth.

On August 10, 1946, during the peace conference in Paris, Italian Prime Minister -- made a speech and this speech had followed Italy's participation in the war and aside -- we had fought alongside with the allies, with the partisans, to fight for Italy. But the only person that showed some friendship to us was the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. Burns. And I think at this point the seeds of our deep friendship were born.

August 10, 1946, was nine days before you were born. (Laughter.) But I was already active in politics at that point. (Laughter and applause.)

And we were very touched also when, in 1946, Fiorello LaGuardia diverted the ships full of grain to Italy because Italy, 24 hours later, would have been completely out of any grain. And on April 4, 1949 -- we will celebrate the 47th anniversary of NATO, which was an agreement for peace and liberty.

And since the signing of the Atlantic agreement in Washington, our presence has been felt and we belong to and are a faithful member of NATO. We participated in Somalia, in Mozambique, and as you mentioned earlier, in Bosnia. Our presence is important and felt.

I had the honor of enjoying your hospitality here at the White House when, as Under Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, I came here to the White House to meet the great then Secretary of State Dulles and the great Judge Warren. This was little more than 10 years ago, and as Interior Minister, I was very glad to sign agreements that were extremely important, basic in fighting terrorism and organized crime, and have served as a model for such agreements to fight drug trafficking and organized crime in the European Community, North Africa, and the Middle East.

For this friendship that your government shows us I thank you, thank you, Mr. President, for what the United States does throughout the world for the cause of peace, for what you are doing between Israel and the Palestinians and in Bosnia. A peace that is still stained by blood at times, but it is the road that we have to follow.

For having been on your side, unwavering for 40 years, for this participation of ours, over 40 years, we feel we have a right to take part in and have an important role in international affairs, not only in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, but throughout the world. I feel, therefore, that Italy has a right to participate as a partner on the side of the United States to defend liberty and justice, particularly for those people who are most in need, and for peace among nations. (Applause.)

Mr. President, I'm here, after 50 years, to renew our friendship -- a friendship that is a free choice of ours -- and to bring my greetings to the people of the United States -- two countries where Italian immigration, present here, through their work, has made America great.

Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)

END 10:35 A.M. EST